Amnesty International Demands Release Of Kashmiri Teenage Protestor

JK Bank

Murtaza ManzoorMurtaza Manzoor was arrested on 21 January by police in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir. He was arrested in relation to a case from June 2010 on allegations of attempted murder, assault and rioting. According to the police, he is an “incorrigible antisocial element” who was leading a protest march that resulted in protestors pelting police with stones.

On 8 February the police decided to hold Murtaza Manzoor, under the Public Safety Act, as they feared that he would be released on bail in the criminal case against him. Police documents relating to his arrest and detention give no indication of his age, but his family members gave Amnesty International a copy of his official certificate of birth (from the Office of the Registrar of Births and Deaths, Government of Jammu and Kashmir) that shows that he is only 17 years old.

Murtaza Manzoor has been held at Kot Bhalwal Jail in Jammu, nearly 300 km away from his home, since 8 February. The prison does not have any special facilities for children and provision of health care is limited. Manzoor’s father is an auto rickshaw driver in Srinagar and the family is struggling to meet the expenses for jail visits and legal proceedings for his release.

Authorities in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state must immediately end the administrative detention of a child who has been held by police since January, Amnesty International said today.

“The Jammu and Kashmir government must immediately end the PSA detention of Murtaza Manzoor,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific director at Amnesty International.

“If the police want to pursue charges against him, he must be held in special facilities for children and proceeded against in conformity with international law.”

Although police records gave no indication of his age, Mansoor’s family members provided Amnesty International with an official birth certificate proving he is 17 years old.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which India has ratified, states that children shall only be detained as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. Children should be detained in separate facilities and as close as possible to their families.

According to Jammu and Kashmir’s Juvenile Justice Act, boys above 16 are treated as adults, which is not in confirmity with the law in the rest of India or with international law, which considers only those above 18 as adults.

“Jammu and Kashmir must immediately amend its juvenile justice law to treat everyone under the age of 18 as minors, in line with Indian and international law, and should afford minors all the legal safeguards set out in international law”, Zarifi said.

“While still a child, Manzoor has been locked up far away from his family in inadequate conditions alongside adults.”

A recent Amnesty International report, Lawless Law, Detentions under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, found that every year hundreds of people are locked up on spurious grounds under Jammu and Kashmir’s Public Safety Act.

From January to September 2010 alone police detained at least 322 people without trial under the act’s provisions. A number of those, including children, were detained on charges relating to protests against the Indian government in the summer of 2010.

The Jammu and Kashmir authorities freed 14-year-old Faizan Rafiq Hakeem on 5 April after Amnesty International called for his release. He had been charged with rioting and other offences before being detained under the Public Safety Act.

Syndicated from: Amnesty International

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